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Daddy Debrief: Transition

by David DeWitt   

On a hike with friends this past week a strange being inhabited my child, replacing the slightly awkward son of a few short months ago.

We live close to a trail that leads to a beautiful waterfall. The 15-minute trek requires scrambling over some rocks and boulders. It was impossible for us to do the full hike when we first moved here. We couldn’t get past the main entrance. Sticks and colorful bits of broken glass held more fascination for Finn.

Subsequent hikes have taken us to the bottom of the falls but not without plenty of detours and a long piggy back ride home. If we want real exercise we usually go separately.

Erin had colleagues over so she wanted us all to hike to the top of the falls before dinner. I thought that was ambitious for Finn, but Erin had recently done it herself so I trusted her motherly instinct.

Finn and his mother Erin walk through the Catskills. Photo 
by David DeWitt.
We had both noticed Finn’s recent growth spurt, preceded by increased food intake and several added hours of sleep. And just that morning at breakfast he looked so tall in his chair I had to check to make sure he wasn’t sitting on a book. I wished I had taken his picture before bedtime just to compare.

I almost expect to wake up some morning and find a teenager sitting there. I’ve been told that actually happens.

When we reached the trailhead he whizzed right through and was running well ahead of us all. That was a first for him. I thought he was just showing off in front of company. But then when we were crossing the stream he fought for me to release his hand, and away he went balancing himself. Then he scuttled up the the mountain almost as easily as the rest of us.

Time lapse videos of kids have almost become cliché these days, but I’m especially fond of the short film by Frans Hofmeester who captured his 12-year-old daughter in front of the same backdrop for a few seconds every week from infancy. And then of course there’s the film Boyhood, which had Erin sobbing during the opening credits.

I had the thought of wanting to capture and stretch this moment out. “Slow down,” I echoed several times throughout the hike as he hopped from one rock to another with skill I hadn’t seen before. But even film can’t quite capture these transitions that seem now more abrupt than the changing seasons.
On the way back down the mountain there was a slip and a scrape, a brief cry that required a hug of comfort before he said “I’m ok,” and then he was on his way again. There was indeed a piggy back ride but much shorter this time.

Walking home through the woods Erin lifted her hands in the air, feeling the gentle shower of yellow and orange leaves falling from the trees. “It’s so beautiful,” she said. “But just a little sad too.” 

David DeWitt is a painter, writer, and dad. He lives in Ulster County with his wife Erin and three year old son, Finn. To read David’s blog on art and fatherhood, visit www.daviddewitt.com.